I came across an article on “The Chronicle of Philanthropy” dated back to March of 2009 about non-profit deficits and how in the USA, the deficits are resulting in loss of programming, staff and services. You can find this article at http://philanthropy.com/article/Nearly-a-Third-of-Charities/63052/ .
In the non-profit world, “deficit” is almost a dirty word, falling into the ranks of other taboo words like “advocacy”. The article speaks of how one third of the non-profits in the USA had operating deficits in 2008. While in Canada, when I did research a few months ago, most said in census that they expected their funding to remain stable or actually increase. But non-profit deficits are what you have to deal with no matter where you are located in the world.
Some organizations that I have worked with, have run deficits for short times, but immediately developed a plan on how to get rid of the deficit. The most I have seen in a deficit is about 3% of the organization’s annual income. This is still manageable. But there are probably other non-profits in the world that run a deficit more often and with a higher percentage of their annual income. But if a non-profit is running a deficit, there are a few actions they can take. They are:
- Reallocate some core funds – If your non-profit receives core funding, then you may be able to reallocate some of the core funds to cover the deficit, by finding economies in your core expenditures.
- Donor fundraising – If your organization relies on donors, then it’s important to kick up your advertising campaign and get your board tapping into their contacts to help raise money to cover the deficit.
- Grant fundraising – There are some grants out there that don’t have a lot of turnaround time. Most funders will not cover deficits, but if you find a funder who will pay for a part of a program that your core funding now pays for in the fiscal year that you are running the deficit, then you can direct those extra funds where you need them provided it abides by the agreement entered into with the first funder.
- Bank line of credit – You could go to your financial institute and see if your organization can get a line of credit. Keep in mind, banks don’t lend you money when you need it, they loan it when they know you have income that will come in shortly that will cover the loan. So if your deficit occurs because of the timing of funder payments, you may be able to get a line of credit from your bank.
- Go to your funder – If all else fails, contact your funder and explain the situation and see if there is anyway, your organization’s next funding cheque can be sent out sooner, explaining that it is a result of cash flow problems, if that is the problem.
Question of the Day: What strategies have you seen non-profits use to rid themselves of a deficit situation?
For more resources, see our Library topic Nonprofit Capacity Building.